SPV seems to have developed a thing for double live albums lately. First it was Annihilator, then Kreator, Life of Agony, and Sodom. Now we have this two disc set from desert rockers (their word, not mine) Fu Manchu, their first release for SPV after splitting with Mammoth/Hollywood Records following the release of 2002’s California Crossing. Not metal by a long shot, but this proves what longtime fans have known for years: Fu Manchu ROCKS!
The album opens in typical live album fashion, with the crowd chanting “Fu Manchu! Fu Manchu!” before the band comes out and immediately rips into “Hell on Wheels”. The first thing you notice is the fuzzed-out guitars, a staple of the Fu Manchu sound. Then there is the quick, driving, catchy main riff. The vocals . . . well, no one ever said rock was pretty. They’re just “regular” vox: no gutturals, no high-pitched wails, and no other kinds of tricks. They’re just “good”. As the set rolls on, you get a little bit of everything Fu. There are the fast-paced rockers like “California Crossing”, “King of the Road”, and “Tilt”; mid-tempo stuff like “Mongoose”, “Wurking”, and “Squash That Fly”; and some slower stuff, like “Boogie Van”, “Weird Beard”, and the Blue Oyster Cult cover that they’ve made their own, “Godzilla”.
Fu Manchu is just sort of a hard band to describe, because the formula is simple: good songs, catchy riffs, and enough variation to keep everything interesting. Trying to describe them to someone who has never heard them is like trying to describe what the color red is: you can try all you want, but you’ll never get the full message across. Obviously, though, live albums are meant to please the fans, not to attract new ones. Here, Fu Manchu has put together a live set that is sure to please the fans, with a fair distribution of selections from each of their albums, and an overall solid representation of their road-tested live show.